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The Hunger for More: What We Really Want and Need

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“Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.” ~Proverb

As a child, I was obsessed with other worlds—reading about alien planets, writing fantasy stories, or just playing video games. As a teenager, I longed to know as much as possible— who we were, why we are here, the meaning of life.

Later on, I started traveling. There was so much to see, so much to do, so many ways to look at the world. I wanted to see it all, touch it all, experience it all.

This need for more has existed throughout my life in its many forms, and I can thank it for always driving me to do great, exciting things. But at the same time, it has never allowed me to stay still, to just enjoy myself the way so many people seem to.

When I ignore this feeling, it starts gnawing away at me from the inside. It tells me that I am not doing enough, that I’m lazy, a time-waster. Some would call the feeling a feeling of becoming stir-crazy, cabin fever, ennui.

I look at it as a hunger. When I ignore that hunger, when I stop traveling or learning or creating or just doing, the weight of the world piles up on me and life suddenly feels like a suffocating, restricting place.

If I continue to ignore it, I tend to slip into depression or sadness; the smallest of stresses will bring me to tears.

But what is that hunger? Do we all have it, to some degree? Without the human desire for knowledge and development, we might all still be living in caves.

Without it, we wouldn’t have medical and technological developments, and we wouldn’t have art or poetry, perhaps. But on the other hand, we might not have war, hatred, and greed.

That hunger takes different forms depending on how it is channelled.

Given the right circumstances, we get creativity, ambition, and invention. Given the wrong ones, we get that dark, burning need to amass more and more money and power—that greed that can be seen in so many people throughout our history.

We often try feeding that hunger with money, power, knowledge, creative output, food, sex, or drugs. We desperately try everything to fill that void, apart from what we really need.

Four years ago, when I was on the verge of depression, a friend suggested that I try mindfulness. In short, the art of being in the here and now, of focusing on the senses instead of the thoughts, and of looking at thoughts objectively.

It took a while, but what my most successful moments of mindfulness showed me is that it is possible to be still, to absorb a moment fully, without that restlessness, that hunger, starting to tap its foot and demand to know what on earth I think I’m doing.

Quieting the nagging voice in my head has become an art of its own, now.

The most powerful moments are found walking through nature, just listening to the variety of bird song, or feeling the ancient strength of a tree against my back.

In those moments, another, older feeling comes to me. That feeling is of being one; one with myself, one with nature, one with everything. The flowers, the trees and the birds are just a part of it.

In the heart of a forest I realize something so true, so powerful, that it brings tears to my eyes.

We are animals. We are part of the earth, just as any animal or plant is. Somewhere along the line, we evolved to crave more, to be aware of our surroundings, and to think about ways to improve it. That craving brought us the modern comforts that we know now, but it also brought with it a world of suffering.

In our haste to become more, to know and to create, we also felt that it was our destiny to conquer not only each other, but also nature. But this very act of cutting ourselves off from our roots has had disastrous consequences for many.

Most of us crave companionship, whether we seek it by clinging to romantic partners or through a string of disconnected, drunken nights. We are addicted to social networking, perhaps not because of the technology itself but because it substitutes for that feeling of oneness, of connection, that we have lost.

We, in the developing world, are starving ourselves. This fast-paced, technology-based life, focused only on the acquiring of money and status is a twisted manifestation of a hunger that exists deep down in every one of us.

But what that hunger really is, what that calling inside us really is, is a call back to oneness, to our roots, which we ignore.

One way to describe it is that we all have souls, and that our souls are connected to the earth and everything on it. Or, you could say, every atom in your body was once part of something else on this earth, and will be again.

Without nature, we cannot eat or breathe, and yet we lock ourselves up in man-made cubicles and unquestioningly buy food from packets.

We also need to connect to each other. We might seem to connect online, but it is at the cost of face-to-face interaction, which is far better for us.

It worries me to see children glued to phones and games, ignoring the people around them. If we aren’t even teaching people to connect to each other and to their world, then there’s little wonder that so many people are unhappy.

Ironically, people slave away unhappily so that, one day, they can relax in the countryside or on the beach. That retirement dream might be nothing more than recognition that we need to surround ourselves with a more natural environment, not in some distant future but right now.

I’m not saying that we should abandon all human progress and go back to living in caves. Some inventions have saved lives and made it possible for us to live much longer and healthier lives. However, we need to look at the mental health problem we’re facing and consider all other possibilities before throwing drugs at people.

Nature therapy and mindfulness are growing industries, and have been shown to treat everything from substance abuse to depression and anxiety.

You can see the effects yourself; just sit in a park and close your eyes, listening to the birds or the running water. Turn off your phone and let yourself just BE.

Recognize that you were created by nature; that you are part of it and it is part of you. I have been so much happier since I honoured this core part of myself, and I want to share it with everyone.

I believe the hunger is a calling—a calling back to where we came from. We are each one tiny part of a massive picture, and when we disconnect ourselves from it we are denying ourselves the beautiful, meaningful feeling that comes from recognizing that we are all part of the same amazing world.

Photo by notsogoodphotography

About Gwyneth Jones

Gwyneth currently travels, writes and helps people to live lives that are more in line with their authentic selves, finding their inner confidence, creativity and sense of connection. Her emerging life mission is to reconnect people with each other and with nature. http://makelifemagic.blogspot.com.

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  • Even face-to-face interaction isn’t the same anymore with people constantly checking social media, e-mail and playing games on their iPhones while “hanging out”. I think we’ve definitely lost a part of our true connection along the way. Great post Gwyneth, thanks for sharing!

  • Alexey Sunly

    Great message and powerful insight, Gwyneth! Thank you for sharing it with others 🙂

  • Tana Franko

    Fantastic post, thank you!

  • I agree with the part about mindfulness, yes we will all benefit from being in the moment. However working with numerous types of therapies over the past twelve years I would disagree with your message of why people have their individual needs.

    We develop our personality adaptations throughout our formative years and listen to messages we were given as children, we then spend the rest of our lives living by these messages interpreted as children. The problem is obvious, that our ‘rules’ were set down by a child’s mind and perception. If you dig deep enough into your past and the upbringing you had you will discover why you do the things you do. I wrote a story called ‘joining up the dots’ which walks people through my discoveries of myself – this was written in the hope of helping others connect their dots. Simple not easy!

  • Graham

    You used it here, and it is heard often here at Tinybuddha and at other venues:

    Let (or allow) yourself to “just” BE.

    What does that mean? How could you possibly do otherwise, in any situation? You are, at any moment, in the process of “being.”

    What for you – and any others who would like to risk (I am insulting myself here, in case anyone misinterprets my humor) herding cats – is different between day-to-day life and those times you are”just being?”

    You are being sad, or being angry, or being contemplative, or being mindful, or being comatose…….

    The only way, as I understand it, you could ever not “BE” is to die.

    What am I missing?

  • jisys craist

    it would seem to me that the author of this article is speaking of a larger & more profound species-wide ‘calling’ of sorts that seems to be within us, like an evolutionary step that we are (hopefully) taking perhaps not-consciously. i am referring to the psychic (DON’T lose me here) connection between all our brains which exists and has always since we are & always were all ONE organism. a world population like ours at present was unheard of & therefore of no concern to cave-people. but it is now an issue of life-death and only when ALL (ALL) discrimination has gone, can we become a REAl civilisation… a super civilisation.

    indeed we have become staggeringly more connected to each other in the last 10 years alone. facebook, like it or not, was an evolutionary step. perhaps future internet speeds will allow for a quality of online interaction that puts this current text-based thing to shame? well anyway.

    i don’t believe that anyone should be led to believe that their needs are of any more value than anyone else’s. we all share the basic elements in that sense – reinforcement of self-importance; realisation of sexual fantasies etc etc. what i mean is, we all grow up thinking our own life is the ultimate movie, with its montages and classic moments and so on. apparently we can’t do much about our egos. i will work on mine for years and get back to you when i know whether it’s possible to evolve one’s self within a lifetime. ‘digging deep’ into your brain’s past is fine if you want to be able to explain in almost-technical terms how your impulses came to be shaped… what about where they’re going? anywhere truly worthwhile??

  • Right on. Nature is such a powerful healer in and of itself, because it is always HERE and NOW. Combining mindfulness or any type of meditation with that allows us to tap directly into tao, god, buddha, whichever you like. Thanks for sharing your experience and poignant insight.

  • They way that I interpret “just being” is: to stop busying yourself with things to do… such as, checking e-mail, watching TV, eating food, forever searching for something to fill the void of nothingness.

    Just being, allows you to learn to be comfortable with the nothingness… and find peace with the fact that it is okay to simply ‘do nothing’. Yes often times emotions will surface, like sadness, anger, etc, but you just observe that they have arisen and let them go.

    Great article, thank you for sharing, Gwyneth.

  • lifehatched

    Nice article Gwyneth. I think you touched on some important points, our unhealthy hunger for more, in terms of wealth and power. As well as a need to become more aware of and grateful for the present. While I see mindfulness and gratitude as cornerstones to our well-being, I think a healthy desire for more in life can be beneficial as well, as long as it’s channeled towards the right things. For example: travel (seeing different cultures and their unique perspectives), helping others, etc.

  • Vid

    I think craving for ‘more’ is a motivating factor,now it depends on an individual what he/she wants more and more.Excess of anything is always bad, even knowledge can be dangerous.

  • I totally agree that there are much better ways to treat depression etc and start enjoying life. Natural therapy and mindfulness work much better that drugs. The world is a wonderful place when we learn to enjoy nature and the ground we walk on and the people we see and meet. Great post Gwyneth. Thank you for sharing.

  • Jade

    I think for each of us, our path to oneness and what makes us hunger is unique to who we are. Nature is of course full of beauty and wonder, but I do not hunger for it. What I hunger for is music; when I find a song or tune that speaks to me, I feel at one with the universe, that I’m part of something much bigger than myself, and that every particle and atom is connected to one another. We are all one.

  • Isabel

    I just thought about Frank Sinatra`s song that says: “Help yourself to happiness, and sprinkle it with mirth,Close your eyes and concentrate and dream for all you’re worth,
    You will feel terrific when you get back down to earth…“As you said, I am thinking of the scenario of sitting in a park and do this.

  • Lovely lyrics, Isabel! I do like a bit of Sinatra, too.

  • Very true 🙂 – music also does this for me. Classical music is especially powerful, because I get to thinking of all the people over the decades/centuries who have listened to the same piece of music, and how we are one with them, too. Music and nature together is even better…. I plan to bring a few people into a park and get them singing, one of these days!

  • Thank you, Debbie! 🙂 I just wish people were offered a bit of nature therapy because doctors started handing out the drugs…

  • Exactly – craving more happiness is great! It’s just when that craving gets twisted into a desire for less beneficial things that we see problems.

  • Certainly – and I think that when you connect with nature and with yourself, these healthier desires will come up. They’re usually in the forms of spreading the love through helping others and finding more like-minded people. I love travelling, too, so of course I agree with you there ;)!

  • You’re welcome! 🙂

  • Good question! Hmm, I think what we really mean is to be mindful, not to get wrapped up in thoughts and worries, but to go into yourself and just experience the feeling of existing (breathing, sitting, listening to the sounds around you). When you’re busy being angry, or sad, you’re distracted from your core self. But, yes, we could just as easily say “be mindful” or “be peaceful”!

  • Joan, you have a great point. I am on board with the idea that what we learn about the world as children shapes the way we see things, what we value as important. What I tried to say was that we all have a hunger inside us, but that what we think we want depends on a lot of things – all I said were “circumstances”, but I was referring to things like upbringing and learnt perception. I’d be interested in reading your “joining up the dots” story!

    By the way, love that reply, “jisys” ;)!

  • Something is drawing me to a simpler existence. I’ve always been a minimalist, but lately I feel I need less and less.

  • Gwyneth, this is lovely!! Found it through HerFuture. -Yancy Lael

  • Tara

    OMG! I feel like you just pulled this whole post straight out of my head… thank you for putting words to my feelings and thoughts! I ALWAYS feel better after heading out to reconnect in nature whether it be the forest or the beach. My soul finds Mother Nature and finds happiness in her embrace.

  • Jas

    My gosh! That irritates me to NO end. I ask my friends and family to put their phones away when we spending time together. I am going to start wearing a watcb because I feel we have become condition to use our phones for basic things like checking time.

  • Gwyneth, this is great. I also firmly believe we are all one (stardust!) and it is saddening to see our lack of connections ~ I notice this with all the moms waiting for our daughters during dance class, all glued to our phones instead of connecting with each other. Thanks for the call to mindfulness!

  • Roberta Rizzo

    There is a connection between us and this earth..and cutting off that connection leads us to desolation and hunger. I copied this text onto my website rainb0wbubbles.wordpress.com! Such a great article!

  • Yay! You know, it took me a while to get the words out, too. I think most of us know it, deep down, but it’s hard to articulate. 🙂

  • Such a shame – sometimes I just want to snatch people’s phones away and make them talk to each other! As long as there are some of us who feel the calling, we will be OK… we know that others share our feeling, and slowly, more and more people will wake up to it. I’d love it if you joined my mailing list.. this is something I hope to talk about a lot more in the future!

  • Thanks for the share! Can you please link it back to my blog, at the bottom, though? 🙂 I’d really appreciate it!

  • Yes!! The more physical “stuff” I own, the heavier and yuckier I feel. It’s so refreshing to take a big bag off stuff to a charity shop, sell it or move countries (I’ve done it a couple times and reduced everything to a suitcase). The people who make money from all the cr*p don’t want us to know that we don’t really need it, of course..

  • Roberta Rizzo

    I linked it to here, ill add a link to your blog definately! 🙂

  • John Yu

    “That hunger takes different forms depending on how it is channelled.
    Given the right circumstances, we get creativity, ambition, and
    invention. Given the wrong ones, we get that dark, burning need to amass
    more and more money and power.”

    +1

  • John Yu

    Recognizing the “hunger’s” potential for good or evil, instead of categorically declaring it bad.